As we are going to discuss the pros and cons of grain-free dog food let us understand its ingredients. Grains such as wheat, barley, oats, corn, etc., are added to the dog food. They are not inherently bad but low-quality fillers derived from corn, wheat, etc. should be avoided.
Whole, organic or natural foods are unprocessed and contain the complete nutritional profile of the grains. Whole grains are healthier as they are not degraded due to processing. But they should be high quality and digestible to the dog.
If your dog is allergic or sensitive to grains then a grain-free diet is advisable. Your dog will get high quality and digestible food as it contains legumes, beans, vegetables and other plant-based sources of the basic food groups.
Pros and Cons of Grain-free Dog Food
We discuss the pros and cons of grain-free dog food so that you can decide for yourself if it is right for your pet.
Pros of Grain-free Dog Food
A grain-free diet does not mean no carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are made of 3 components – sugar, fiber, and starch. Fiber and starch are complex carbohydrates that release energy slowly. While sugar is a simple carbohydrate that releases energy immediately.
Starch from dog food ingredients such as tapioca, beans, vegetables, legumes, and potato digests slowly to release energy over time.
Grain-free dog food is meant for canines that cannot digest grains. Usually, all dogs have enzymes to digest, absorb and utilize the nutrients from grains. But in the case of those dogs that cannot – grain-free dog foods are a blessing.
Dogs may be allergic to grain proteins such as gluten. Their system may identify the protein as an invader and produce histamine. This causes the dog to chew, scratch and itch incessantly. A grain-free diet may be recommended in this case.
Other health issues that benefit from grain-free dog food are dog obesity. The low carbohydrate diet causes their body to utilize the fat and proteins to produce energy.
A low carbohydrate diet or grain-less diet is recommended for dogs diagnosed with cancer or diabetes. Low carbohydrate and high-fat diet with fish oil help speedy recovery and extend a disease-free remission.
Grain-less dog food also helps manage the production of insulin for diabetic dogs. Some grains have a high glycemic index. The high glucose level challenges insulin levels.
Lectins and glutens in some grains cause inflammation. Chronic gut inflammation occurs where the superficial layers of the intestine have eroded. This impairs the secretion of enzymes that aid in immunity, digestion, and absorption of nutrients.
The malassimilation of carbohydrates causes diarrhea. If this malabsorption continues it leads to bacterial fermentation and overgrowth that causes flatulence, and other issues.
The Cons of Grain-free Dog Food
Regular dog foods include a balanced amount of grains in them. This provides complex carbohydrates that digest slowly and release energy throughout the day. Grains are nutritious. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, etc. The dogs are disallowed the benefits of grains.
Grains are also rich in fiber that binds the feces and helps in gut motility. This helps clean the digestive tract and maintain weight. Grains can delay gastric emptying; this slows down the small bowel transit time.
During this time the bowels bind the toxins and bile acids that irritate the bowels. The overall process normalizes the gut motility. The slow transit of fiber also causes the animal to feel full longer which curbs the appetite.
Grains are also rich in lean protein. The gluten in the grains is a high-quality protein. Though it is not as bioavailable or intestinally absorbable as animal-sourced proteins. The high-quality whole-grain diet helps fortify other protein sources that contribute to your dog’s health.
The combined effect of the nutrients, fibers and regular bowels sets up a healthy gut fauna. A healthy gut ensures a healthy heart, brain and immune system. This promotes healthy sleep, improves the mood and prevents auto-immune diseases and cancers.
Some pet owners believe that a grain-free diet means a high protein or meat diet. This is not true as this dog food includes peas as a first and alternative ingredient to grains. The following ingredients may be chicken meal and fats; which is not meat.
Grains have lower fat content than meat. A balanced diet of meat and grains helps control weight by reducing calories.
A study by FDA informed of the deleterious effects of the grain-free diet on these fur babies. It found that the dogs fed on lentils, peas, potatoes, and legumes had higher chances of suffering from Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
Regardless of the pros and cons of grain-free dog food your dog deserves a balanced diet. As one size does not fit all it is recommended that you formulate a diet that supports your pet’s needs. The factors to consider would be the pet’s activity level, age, size, health issues, etc.
You may not need to include grains. But it is always wise to consult with your veterinarian to personalize your pet’s food.